New Delhi:Absconding tycoon Vijay Mallya’s claim that he had a “meeting” with the finance minister before leaving India has created a political storm, with the opposition parties hitting out at the government and the minister rubbishing the claims. Minutes later, Vijay Mallya backtracked, blaming the media for misrepresenting facts and essentially confirming the minister’s version of events.Speaking outside a London court, Mallya said, “I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth.”Arun Jaitley was the finance minister when Mallya left India in March 2016. He is also the current finance minister.”I have said before that I am a political football. There is nothing that I can do about it. My conscience is clear and (I) put almost Rs 15,000 crore worth of assets on the table of the Karnataka High Court,” he told reporters, while having a cigarette during the lunch break during the hearing for his ongoing extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.The 62-year-old liquor baron, facing fraud and money laundering charges, was speaking to reporters outside a UK court hearing a case on his extradition to India when he was asked if he was “tipped off” to leave the country. “I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth,” he responded, without naming the minister. He said he had also told the minister that he was leaving for London.Arun Jaitley, who was the finance minister in 2016 when Vijay Mallya left India, emphatically denied his claims in a Facebook post and in comments to the media. He said he never gave him an appointment after becoming a minister in 2014 but the fugitive liquor baron misused his position as a parliamentarian to accost him once in parliament.
Terming Vijay Mallya’s offer to settle overdue loans of over Rs. 9,000 crore to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airline as “bluff offers”, the minister said he did not even take the papers Mr Mallya was carrying during that brief encounter.”Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” he wrote on Facebook.”He misused that privilege (of being an MP) on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that ‘I am making an offer of settlement’… Having been fully briefed about his earlier ‘bluff offers’, without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him ‘there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers’,” Mr Jaitley said.